Bush Marks Five Years of War in Iraq

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The economy has replaced Iraq as the number one issue among Americans.

But today, on the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the war, President Bush shifts the nation's focus back on Iraq.

For more on the progress in Iraq, watch Ret. Army Col. William Taylor, following this report.

"My fellow Americans, at this hour American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations," President Bush said.

In a speech prepared for military officials at the Pentagon, President Bush defends the war as necessary - then, now, and for the future.

He says we're now at crossroad with the recent successes of the military surge, saying that "it has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror."

To turn away now, Bush says, would be a mistake - that theme echoed by Vice President Dick Cheney in Iraq earlier this week.

"Given the enormous effort that's been made, and the sacrifices that have been made, both in terms of lives and national treasure, to succeeding in Iraq, its very very important that we succeed. That we not quit before the job is done," Cheney said.

There is plenty of work to be done, especially on the political front.

But, there are success stories too.

Violence has dropped dramatically - down 60 percent in the last year.

The economy is booming and confident Iraqis are out in the streets opening shops. And a number of Sunni tribal chiefs are working with American and coalition forces to fight against al Qaeda.

Despite those gains, Democrats say too little, too late - it's time for American troops pull out.

"Let's be clear, withdrawal is not defeat," Senator Hillary Clinton said.

"Let me be absolutely clear, I opposed this war in 2002. I opposed it in 2003, 04, 05, 06 and 07," Senator Barack Obama said.

But Republican Senator John McCain - also in Iraq this week on a Senate visit - says Democrats have it wrong.

"Senators Clinton and Obama said the surge would never work. It's worked. Now they say that they can't function politically. They're functioning politically. Very poorly. Two steps forward, one step back," McCain said.

The president acknowledged the war's cost not only the estimated $500 billion to conduct the war, but the nearly 4,000 American troops who sacrificed their lives and the tens of thousands who were wounded.

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